Friday, July 30, 2021

Beginning at The End


    As a bookseller I do encounter people that have no shame in telling me that they ALWAYS read the final page or the last few pages or the ending chapter in a book prior to actually starting the book.  I don't even try to mask the look of horror that crosses my face. To make matters worse I am actually related to a couple of these folks. 

    One of them justified her position, telling me that by reading the end first she knows if she should let herself get emotionally invested in a character.  If that person turns out to be a jerk or dies or ends up miserable she wants to know ahead of time.  I have pondered this concept and I just don't get it.  For me part of the reading experience is trying to figure out the end.  Trying to out guess the author's intent seeing the next page and finding out if  I had it right or wrong.  Cheering for the characters or being happy that they get what they deserved (the good, the bad and the ugly) and that feeling of satisfaction as I read the last page.  Which is often accompanied by tears (happy or sad) anger, frustration, confusion, delight, despair every emotion that the words have evoked.

    I have to be careful in my bookselling world to not take ownership of a book.  I need to let the reader experience the words on their own terms (even if they read the pages out of order).  As mere humans we all respond differently.  I have to allow that to happen and not push my response on them.  One of those books for me is "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Phillipp Sendker.  In my humble opinion every word in this novel is perfectly placed.  I realize that puts a lot of pressure on the book to be perfect for the reader.  I often hesitate when recommending the book, out of fear that the new owner won't get it and that would disappoint me.  Unlike the people I mentioned above I couldn't read the end (until I was ready) I didn't want the book to end.  I didn't want the words to disappear.  I went so far as to avoid the ending by rereading previous pages, rereading chapters, slowing down in order to savor every single word.  When I did read to the end I closed the book with a satisfied sigh.  I saw the next page, I knew what happened next and I honestly had a book hangover and was unable to open another book for several days.

    There are 2 sequels to this book.  I have read neither of them.  I never reread "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" like a first kiss I know I can't replicate the experience.  Customers that have read all three books assure me that I won't be disappointed.  That they are just as good.  I smile and nod my head but I know they are wrong.  For me I saw where the words would lead into the next day, weeks, months, years and I don't want to have it be any other way.

    This isn't the only book that I hold tight, it wasn't the first and won't be the last one to slip inside of me to stay.  I love that I am filled with words and images and there is always room for more.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Books surrounded by a House


I am a lover of books, a lover of words, a collector of both.  Recently many of us received a surprise in the mail relating to our property taxes.......our home took a huge leap in value.  We are appealing and in that process I have had some interesting conversations with friends.  I was telling someone they have our house listed as frame construction when in fact it is cinderblock with no insulation in those blocks.  She looked at me and said "yes, but you have books".  At first I was confused then I realized she was referring to the fact that practically every wall in our house is lined with books.  So we do in fact have some insulation.

If you look closely at the photo above you will see that the shelf is coming apart and that the photo album beneath that shelf is holding up the books.  (this is a repair that needs attention SOON)

Years ago a friend was visiting our home for the first time and she stepped into the library/art studio combo and quickly stepped out.  I had told her upon entry that the shelves in this room are deep and that in some instances there are 2-3 rows of books on each shelf.  She looked at me and said "Do you have any idea how much this room must weigh?"  Honestly I had never given that a thought.  But my husband assures me that the floor boards are stout and well built and that this room will not one day end up our bedroom in the basement (which is also book lined).  

When my now, 20 year old nephew, was about 7 he was visiting and was fascinated by all the books in every room in our house (since that was several years ago you can well imagine that there are many, many, many more books housed there now).  He sat on our bed (which is basically a bed surrounded on all sides by books) and his eyes surveyed the room and he quietly inquired "Your Mom let you do this....." I smiled and said yes, he asked me to convince his Mom (my sister) to allow him to do the same.  He was visiting this summer and informed me that he has my DNA and I told him I hoped so.  He laughed and said "no, Aunt Deb I have it all, because one day I want a little house like this filled with books, art, plants and aquariums." (we no longer have aquariums because I needed the room for books)

Thursday, July 8, 2021

I have a disease ..... and I am not looking for a cure


Thursday is book day at The Bookstore.  Every. Single. Thursday.  Books arrive and the UPS driver is my favorite human.  It is like Christmas morning.  There are some book days that disappoint simply because somewhere along the way the boxes rest or take a detour.  But most of the time they arrive and I get to fondle the covers, smell the pages and run my fingers over the ink, absorbing the words through my skin.  

My sister-in-law works with me.  She TRIES to be a task master.  Customers will hear her say "Debbie, stop reading the books." Or stop smelling the books, call the customers, we have to get these books checked in and on the shelves."  I really don't hear her. (Okay, I choose to ignore her)  Books are simply beautiful.  It is exciting on Thursday to see the boxes roll through the door.  Customers pick up on my exhilaration and want to HELP me open the boxes.  I ...... let them.  But I worry they will get to touch the book first....... one day a woman was watching her husband take out his pocket knife to help me open the boxes, she gently said "I think she may not need your help......." he replied "this is amazing, look at all these books"  I think we were kindred spirits but she was right I don't share this task very well.

    Most books are expected.  But, every now and then, there will be a forgotten backorder waiting to be brought to light.  I usually remember what customer has ordered what book.  I usually know for certain which books are meant for them, for the bookstore shelves and for ME!!!!  And, fear not, there are always books for me.  

     Last Thursday, July 1, 2021 books arrived.  I checked them in, called customers, stacked those that needed to find a home on our shelves and tucked a few (6) into my bag to find a home on my shelves (the floor) at my house.  

    Today, July 8, 2021 all of the above is being repeated.  Then I realized an error (this is monumental since I rarely admit to errors) had been made a week ago.  One of those 6 books that are now at my house, either being read or about to be was in fact a special order for a customer.  I called him today, and to my relief I got his answering machine and made my confession to his voice and not to him.  I said I was sorry (he knows me really, really well and will know that I meant it) sort of -- it is a really good book and I realized when I started it a couple of nights ago that it is the end of a trilogy and I have read the other books.  I told him when I finish the book I will be happy to share it with him.  

Please don't stage an intervention I really don't need one.

Sunday, July 4, 2021



    It has been an interesting week.  I have already gone public with the news that I am no longer a flip phone user.  Technology is not my friend so the new phone is going to take some getting used to.  But that isn't the real reason I am grieving the loss of my little flip friend.  On that phone were saved messages.  One from my Mom the day before she died and a couple others from my Dad. He leaves epic messages that begin with, Debbie, this is your Father.  A favorite that is saved starts this way then continues with.....did I leave my false teeth under the pillow.....?  I have a good friend that is a technology wizard and he assures me those messages can be saved.

    Last night I was chatting with my Dad about the heat.  Neither of us is a fan.  He said he was miserable but he was thinking about his Mom yesterday and wondered how she managed in the summer months cooking on a wood cook stove with no running water and no electricity.  Cooking 3 meals a day for her family, and big threshing crews.  Hauling water, using an outhouse and caring for small children.  I looked around me and saw how fortunate I am.  I liked hearing his memories.

This morning I was preparing food for our 4th of July dinner.  As I was juicing lemons my wonderful, very simple juicer stopped working.  It is easy to replace, the memories though are something else.  Years ago it was a gift from my Mom.  It was like the one they used at Mel's Diner making that incredible lemonade.  Every time I used it (and I used it often) I would smile thinking of her.

As I was making potato salad (the way my Mom taught me, with a little dab of my Aunt Julia) I was swamped with memories.  I recall waking up to the smell of fried chicken and coming downstairs to see the makings of a picnic well underway.  Back then I didn't think much about how everything was ready for a day in the mountains.  I just knew it was going to be a great day.  I never wondered about how early Mom had gotten up to fry chicken, make a potato salad, pack a picnic basket filled with food, plates, napkins, utensils, and cups.  Nor did I think about the  baseball gloves, bats and balls along with changes of clothing for each of us.  The big drink cooler was filled with ice and lemonade or kool-aid to quench our thirst while we swam, ran, played, hiked (and most likely fought with our siblings)  Sometimes these excursions were combined with getting a load of firewood or we would meet other families and have a day of fun.  

    The anniversary of my Mom's passing was this past week.  It has been 8 years.  So many memories, so many moments.  I realize the loss of a couple of material things that I attached to her are just things.  She is always with me in my heart and my memories.